In a dynamic portrait of culture, class, race relations, and the undeniable power of music, the vibrant new film, Knights of Swing, is a firsthand look at life in post-war America.
Set in 1947, the film traces the challenges, disappointments, and successes of six high school boys and the girls who join them to form one of California’s most talented and swingin’ big bands, the Knights of Swing. With the action set in Lynwood, CA, (at “Castle High”) the story follows an inclusive group of musicians trying to navigate a world that is still very much entrenched in prejudices and antiquated worldviews.
Through their trials, tribulations, and sense of duty to persevere against all odds, the optimistic young band and their fearless leader and high school science teacher, Mr. Miller (Richard Neil), fight tooth and nail to be the best of the best, striving to win the coveted California Battle of the Bands.
Executive Producer Rolland Jacks, who wrote the original story and composed all the music with Emilio Palame, conceived the world from personal experiences as a young man: “It was 1947 in post-war Southern California. I was in a band called the Knights of Swing and wanted to recapture some of the values of the era, along with the beauty and musicality of big band jazz when those big bands were all the rage. The film is based loosely on my own experiences, embellished with a big helping of imagination,” he says.
To direct the action, Jacks enlisted Palame, a highly-regarded pianist/vocalist, producer and film and TV composer/arranger for 45 years. Palame’s resume includes over 50 film and TV credits. On the music front, he’s worked with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Paul Williams, Lanie Kazan, Connie Stevens, jazz artists Chuck Mangione and Grant Geissman, and as accompanist/conductor for the incomparable legend Miss Peggy Lee.
“Knights of Swing is the most important artistic endeavor I have been a part of in my long standing career. The symmetry of working with such talented and dedicated people to tell a story that confronts racism, loss, the consequence of war, yet also shows forgiveness, unconditional love and the power of music to bring people together, is a gift that has touched my heart and I know will reach yours,” says Palame.
The uplifting, toe-tapping original songs heard throughout the movie are the result of a decades long musical relationship between Jacks and Palame. For over twenty years, these close friends have been collaborating on a canon of heartfelt, spirited and entertaining songs ranging in style from Pop and Gospel, to Musical Theater, Jazz and Swing.
Adding further credibility to the authenticity of the era is the inclusion of 22-time Grammy nominee (and 4-time Grammy winner) Gordon Goodwin, who takes the role of “Mr. Hughes,” one of the judges presiding over the grand finale- the California Battle of the Bands. Goodwin is well-known throughout the big band world for his 18-piece ensemble, The Big Phat Band, which returns to the Hollywood Bowl this summer for the inaugural Hollywood Jazz Fest.
Knights of Swing in its entirety is a moving portrait that shows music can unite people despite different cultures, backgrounds, and races. The film’s lush and lavish cinematography captivates from the get go, emanating that warm and sunny California disposition. With its radiant and riveting energy led by a dynamic cast of actors, the film boasts awe-inspiring live music scenes that act as unforgettable highlights of the picture.
The film is now available for $4.99 for a 48-hour streaming rental via Vimeo on Demand.
For further insight on the film, we conducted a virtual roundtable with some of the brilliant minds behind the movie, including Rolland Jacks (Executive Producer/Composer/Screenplay Co-Writer), Emilio Palame (“King Arthur”), Gordon Goodwin (“Mr. Hughes”), Richard Neil (“Mr. Miller”), Emily Goglia (“Beverly”), and Jeremy Staple (“Conrad”).